HARTFORD, CT – Lots of player movement this past week.
The Hartford Wolf Pack announced the signing of RW Shawn O’Donnell to a one-year, AHL deal.
O’Donnell, a walk-on two years ago, came out of Canadian college hockey where he played at St. Mary’s University in Halifax in the Canadian Maritimes under the tutelage of former New Haven Nighthawk, and NHL first-round pick, Trevor Steinburg.
O’Donnell and Chad Nehring were as good of a one-two combo last year as Head Coach Ken Gernander could have hoped for. The two became an intricate part of the team’s overall success bringing a high-energy, high-contact game on the fourth line as well as being part of the penalty killing unit. Throughout the season, the two also got into the occasional scrap to spark the team throughout the season. He played 42 games registering three goals and six points.
O’Donnell is from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia and had a brief layover in Greenville with the Pack’s ECHL affiliates Road Warriors. O’Donnell played in 12 games there registering 3 goals and 5 assists. He was sent to Greenville because of player numbers issues on the team, but O’Donnell came back to Hartford becoming an important piece of the team run to the conference finals losing to the Manchester Monarchs, the eventual Calder Cup champions.
O’Donnell’s signing leaves just Tyler Brown and Dallas Jackson as the players who played with the Pack full-time last season who have not signed anywhere to date.
Steve Spinnell signed with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The Wolf Pack will likely have another defenseman in training camp in the Swedish rearguard, Calle Anderson. He played last season with HC Lugano in Switzerland’s NLA league and was formerly reassigned to the New York Rangers. Anderson is in the second of a three-year, two-way contract. His AHL salary is $65K and his NHL deal is $660,000.
Like the Rangers Derek Stepan, Greenwich native Colin Wilson avoided arbitration signing a four-year contract with Nashville for a total of $15.75 million.
Farmington native and former Avon Farms player Nick Bonino is on the move again traded by Vancouver to Pittsburgh.
Former Wolf Pack/CT Whale Kris Newbury became the first free agent signing (contract not yet available) for the new AHL Ontario Reign.
Cos Cob native and former Avon Old Farms player Sean Backman signs a new one year deal (contract info not yet available) to stay with the Kings organization and Ontario (AHL).
Justin Johnson, the ex-Sound Tiger enforcer signs a one-year deal with the Toronto Marlies.
Former Whaler Randy Cunneyworth returns to the bench in Rochester for a second tour of duty. Read about that one HERE.
The St. John’s Ice Caps unveiled a Canadiens’ color scheme to their jerseys. It’s very sharp looking. This will be a big AHL seller this season. See it HERE. On the other hand, the San Diego Gulls were scooped from their mid-September launch of their uni’s by sports game video promo. HERE
San Jose announces their home opener as Friday, October 9th. The Wolf Pack home opener is set for Saturday, October 10th. The AHL schedule will be released around mid-August.
Mike Peirara, a West Haven native signs with Reading (ECHL) for this season. He played in Stockton last year.
Alex Vazzano, a Trumbull native who started his goalie NCAA career at Vermont and finished up his collegiate career at Sacred Heart University (AHA) last spring and played six games with Evansville (ECHL), has signed with Greenville (ECHL) and might be seen at Hartford training camp. He played his prep school hockey at The Gunnery School (Washington, CT).
Ex-Pack defenseman Brendon Nash signed with HC Kladno Czech Republic Division-2.
Robin Kovacs, a Rangers draft pick this summer has been loaned from Rogle BK (Sweden-SHL) to AIK in the Swedish Allsvenskan for next season. He was also drafted by North Bay (OHL) in the CHL Import Draft and by CSKA Moscow in the KHL Draft.
Many ex-Pack players have signed contract extensions; Kyle Beach (EC Salzburg Austria-AEHL), Garret Bembridge (Indianapolis ECHL), Pavel Brendl with HK 36 Skalica (Slovakia-SLEL), former Quinnipiac player Eric Lampe (ETC Crimmitschau Germany DEL-2) and Luke Walker son of former Nighthawk Gordie Walker signs again with EC Graz (Austria-AEHL).
Players making changes include ex-Pack Henrik Tallinder going from ZSC Zurich (Switzerland-LNA) to TPS Turku (Finland-FEL), Bretton Stamler, who played seven games with the Pack last year, stays in Germany DEL going from Hamburg to Augsburger and Josef Balej makes a short trip from HC Plzen Czech Republic (CEL) to HK 37 Piestany (Slovakia-SLEL).
Ex-Pack Juris Stals returns to from HK SKP Propad (Slovakia-SLEL) to play in his native Latvia HK Kurbads, Andreas Jamtin, you remember the Swedish Sean Avery, leaves HV 71 (Sweden-SHL) to KHL Medvescak Zagreb (Croatia-KHL), and New Hartford, CT native Mike Cichy switches teams in the Polish Hockey League (PHL) KH Sanok to Orik Opole.
Former Sound Tiger Petteri Nokelainen goes from Torpedo Novgorod (Russia-KHL) to SaiPa (Finland-FEL), another ex-Sound Tiger Kurtis Mclean leaves Medvescak Zagreb (Croatia-KHL) heads to Vienna (Austria-AEHL) and Matt Harlow, son of former Nighthawk Scott Harlow, who was with Brown University (ECACHL) and Elmira (ECHL) last season, heads overseas and HDD Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia-AEHL).
Three more added to AHL’ers signing in Europe David Steckel of Norfolk off to Nuremberg (Germany-DEL), Chris Bruton the ex-Sound Tigers leaves Grand Rapids for Braehead Clan in Scotland (EIHL) and Mark Van Guilder Milwaukee to SV Ritten/Renon (Italy LIHG A-League). That makes 59 players who have signed overseas for this season and 27 of 30 AHL teams have lost at least one player.
Many former players getting into all levels of coaching.
Ex-Pack Goalie Matt Zaba retires after playing with Vienna (Austria-AEHL) last year and becomes the goalie coach for the Colorado Rampage (TIEHL) Top Elite Hockey League Triple AAA level in USA Hockey.
Other coaches in the TIEHL with CT connections are; Mike Gaffey (New Haven Knights and Sound Tigers) Pittsburgh (asst. coach), Kenzie Homer (New Haven Knights) Michigan Nationals as head coach for the Major Peewee team, former Whaler Al Pedersen Colorado Rampage (U-14 Head coach), Kelly Chase (St. Louis asst. coach), Nelson Emerson (LA Jr. Kings Director of Hockey Ops/GM) and Andrew Cassels Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets-2001 (Head coach).
Rounding things out is Shawn McCosh (New Haven Nighthawks/Senators) Phoenix Jr. Coyotes (Bantam 2000 Head coach).
Former Wolf Pack Ryan McGill switches junior leagues and is the new head coach with Owen Sound Attack (OHL) and his assistant coach is former Whaler Derek King. McGill is replacing ex-Pack Drew Bannister who took the head job with Sault Ste. Marie (OHL). The duo was hired by former New Haven Senator Owen Sound GM Dale DeGray.
Greg Moore hung up the skates. The first Wolf Pack captain after Ken Gernander was named assistant coach with the US National Development Team (USNDTP) program that plays out of Plymouth, MI in the USHL.
Winnipeg announces Tulsa will be the ECHL affiliate to the Manitoba Moose and that leaves four ECHL teams without an affiliation in Alaska, Allen, Rapid City, and Wichita. Florida and Kalamazoo have dual affiliations to reach the 30 (NHL)-30 (AHL)-30 (ECHL) minor league formula sought by the NHL there will be a few more moves.
Currently, the ECHL has 28 teams you will see two more added next season and if the NHL grants expansion to Las Vegas and Quebec City another two will be added.
The final five US cities in consideration for hosting the 2018 IIHF World Junior championships are Buffalo, Chicago. Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa. The 2016 World Junior tournament is in Helsinki, Finland and then in 2017 heads to Montreal/Toronto.
This will be the last story for the summer unless something major breaks. Enjoy the sun and fun as much as you can!